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Should Redskins fans be upset about players missing OTAs? It's complicated

Should Redskins fans be upset about players missing OTAs? It's complicated

Each year, on just about every NFL team, players miss voluntary workouts. It happens. The contract between the NFLPA and the league's owners clearly stipulates that attendance is optional. No coach or front office person will argue that. But every year when it happens, a certain segment of fans are unhappy. 

So far in 2017, Jordan Reed, Trent Williams and Matt Jones have missed OTAs. The situations are unique.

"We all know that this is voluntary, so there’s really nothing that we can do," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said Wednesday. 

Last season, DeSean Jackson missed some OTA work for the Redskins. It didn't seem to affect his performance, as he posted more than 1,000 yards receiving in 2016 and landed a $35 million contract this offseason to go to Tampa via free agency. Still, many fans and some in the media found Jackson's behavior unfair to the rest of his teammates.

Jackson also had to battle the reputation that he was a bad teammate, something that emerged as the Eagles tried to smear his character after his illogical release from Philadelphia during the 2014 offseason. Ask Redskins players about DeSean, and the responses showed a cool, calm teammate that was mostly quiet in the locker room and a pro on the field. Attendance at OTAs made little impact on that perception.

Back to 2017. Let's address Reed and Williams' absence first.

No player on the Redskins, or probably in the NFL, will have a problem with Trent Williams choosing to work out in Oklahoma, on his own. Fans might not like it, but players and coaches don't seem to mind. Williams has made five straight Pro Bowls and graded out as the best tackle in football last season by Pro Football Focus. 

Bill Parcells famously explained that life in the NFL is about treating every player fair, but not the same. What is fair for Williams isn't the same for other players. 

Jordan Reed is not on Williams' level, yet, but is still an elite talent. Reed has also been part of an intense training regimen in Miami. Coming back from a shoulder injury, it's certainly possible the Redskins medical staff would like to have Reed in-house to watch his recovery, but the front office fully expects both players ready to go.

MORE REDSKINS: RYAN KERRIGAN ISN'T COUNTING OUT LEBRON JAMES

"We’d like everybody to be here without a doubt, but at the end of the day, Jordan Reed is in Miami working out, Trent [Williams] is working out in Oklahoma," Gruden said. 

Might a few Redskins players like to have Williams and Reed in Ashburn? Sure. Other top players like Josh Norman, Kirk Cousins and Terrelle Pryor are all at Redskins Park, working out with the rest of the team. 

But would every player in the Redskins locker room defend the right of Reed and Williams to skip OTAs? Absolutely. 

Remember, too, family situations and personal goals come into play at times. It's hard to know exactly the reasons a player would choose to work out elsewhere in the offseason.

As for Matt Jones, that situation is much more complicated. A third-round pick in 2015, Jones looks at the Redskins running back room and doesn't see a place for himself. He was already inactive the second half of 2016, and that was before the 'Skins added Samaje Perine in the draft.

Robert Kelley explained that he would love to have Jones at OTAs, but business decisions are different. Jones is in a tough spot, and perhaps he and his representatives think skipping OTAs is the best way to force the Redskins hand.

Reports of Washington looking to trade Jones popped up at the draft and continue to circulate. It's fairly clear, barring injury or something unexpected, Jones is not in the Redskins long-term plans at RB. From Jones' perspective, why go through optional workouts? It's also important to point out Jones has been at the Ashburn facility this offseason, and his teammates all speak highly of him.

"Matt Jones chose not to be here, so we obviously want people to work together and learn together, but it is voluntary at the end of the day," Gruden said. 

Remember Parcells words. Williams and Reed are All Pro level players armed with massive contracts. Jones is fighting for a roster spot after a disappointing season. Missing OTAs hurts Jones far more than it does the other two, and that's if it hurts Williams and Reed at all. It's not the same, but it's fair.

There are two sides to every coin. Optional workouts are just that, optional. The players and coaches know it. At the same time, almost every player that will suit up in Burgundy and Gold this fall is sweating it out together in May, optionally.

For some players, OTAs mean much more than others. For some fans, too.

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Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 24, 64 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What Jay Gruden and Alex Smith had to say from the podium

After yesterday’s OTA practice, Alex Smith and Jay Gruden took the podium. Here are some of their quotes and my comments on them:

Smith was asked about getting together with his new teammates:

So I think every guy these last two days has enjoyed just getting back out there and losing yourself in the game, right? To be limited, it does make you miss it, and I think it makes you appreciate it, so that’s been nice. 

Comment: This is a guy who loves football and everything that goes with it. Smith would start playing games tomorrow if they were scheduled.

Gruden was asked how Smith has looked in these first two days of OTAs:

He’s got good command of the offense already. Great command in the huddle. He’s just getting a feel for the receivers, the players around him, how we call things, but overall, the first two days, I would say I’m very pleased with his quick progression and learning. I knew that wouldn’t be an issue with as much as he’s played in a similar-style system.

Comment: It did seem that Smith was in sync with his receivers, Jamison Crowder in particular. He and Paul Richardson connected on a deep pass after giving each other a look at the line of scrimmage. The encouraging thing is that he is coming from a similar offensive system, so the learning curve should not be too long. 

Smith had a great analogy when asked about similarities to the offenses he has run:

Both from West Coast worlds, so it’s kind of like they are all Latin-based languages, you know, but they are not the same. There are some similarities, structure of the playbook, of how we call things, things like that. There are a lot of similarities but it’s not the same language. I guess that’s the best analogy I can make

Comment: If terminology is the biggest obstacle for Smith to overcome it will be a smooth transition for him. 

Gruden was impressed with the running backs. 

“I’ll tell you what, just today in general, you could see the competition. You could see Rob Kelley step up. Samaje Perine’s had a couple big days. Byron Marshall, I mean, he had a couple great routes today. He’s running the ball between the tackles. [Kapri] Bibbs had some big runs yesterday. Obviously, Derrius Guice has come in here and fueled the fire a little bit.

Comment: I think that the Redskins are going to have to release some good running backs. Rob Kelly never really earned the nickname “Fat Rob” but he looked particularly lean and quick running the ball. He wants nothing to do with being on the roster bubble. Marshall moved quickly and showed his speed. Although Gruden wouldn’t say it, Guice clearly was the best of the bunch; his ability to change direction while maintaining his speed will serve him well. It must be noted that they are not in pads and not getting tackled so more definitive opinions will have to wait until we are in Richmond for a few days. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 19
—Training camp starts (7/26) 64
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 78

The Redskins last played a game 144 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 108 days. 

In case you missed it

 

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Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp

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Associated Press

Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp

Even though it was a bright, warm Wednesday in Ashburn the Redskins held their OTA session in the practice bubble because recent rains have left their outdoor fields to soggy to use. Here are my observations from the practice:

—A few Redskins were not present and a few who were there were not participating in the drills. Jay Gruden said that OT Trent Williams is rehabbing in Texas and that LB Zach Brown is in the process of relocating to the Washington area. RB Chris Thompson and OT Morgan Moses were present, but both were spectators. 

— It should be noted that even though Moses didn’t practice and is still rehabbing after ankle surgery, he still participated in the sideline-to-sideline running the team does at the end of practice.

—At rookie camp, RB Derrius Guice was first in line to do every drill. Today, he gave way to the veterans to all take their reps and then he went first among the rookies. 

— “Fat Rob” Kelley never really was fat but he is now lean and mean. He also seems to be a half step quicker than he was in the past. Added competition in the form of second- and fourth-round picks being added at your position will do that to a player. 

—The “starting” offensive line from left to right was Geron Christian, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, and John Kling. The interior could well start the season; the tackle position awaits the returns of Williams, Moses, and Ty Nsekhe. 

—RB Byron Marshall, who was on the team briefly last year before getting injured, looked very quick with good acceleration.

—CB Josh Norman was back with the group fielding punts. I seriously doubt that he will handle any kicks in games, even preseason games, but perhaps with DeAngelo Hall being gone he wants to be available as an emergency option. Also back with the punt returners were CB Danny Johnson, CB Greg Stroman, WR Maurice Harris, WR De’Mornay Pierson-El, and, of course, WR Jamison Crowder.

—S D.J. Swearinger spent most of the special teams practice on the sideline working on catching passes with his hands extended away from his body. A little while later, he had a chance to make an interception with his arms extended. Of course, he dropped it. 

—It seems like QB Alex Smith and Crowder have some good rapport built already. Once on the right sideline and a few minutes later on the left, Smith threw a well-placed ball into Crowder, who was well covered on both occasions. 

—Eventually, CB Orlando Scandrick caught on and he swatted down a quick out to Crowder. 

—With Brown out, Josh Harvey-Clemons was with the first unit at inside linebacker. He’s still skinny but less so than he was last year. The second-year player was impressive in coverage, staying with Crowder step for step on a deep pass down the middle.

—The play of the day was a deep pass down the right side from Smith to WR Paul Richardson. Stroman was with the receiver step for step on the 9 route but Smith laid the ball out perfectly and Richardson made a lunging catch. Even though it doesn’t have to under the new rule, the catch did survive the ground. 

—WR Cam Sims had a few impressive plays. On one, QB Colt McCoy lofted one high in the air down the right side. Sims kept his focus on the ball while two defenders lost it and made the catch. 

—WR Trey Quinn had his moments. He made a good grab while being bumped by Scandrick. But a while later he dropped a fairly easy one. 

—The running backs all looked good but Guice looked the best of all of them. He had an ability to cut and maintain his speed that not many have. With the warning that they were playing with no pads with no contact and not at full speed, Guice’s vision appeared to be outstanding. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- The draft: Redskins should get 4 additional picks in 2019 draft
- Schedule series: Gotta beat the Cowboys

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.